If there's a better evening of entertainment in a dark venue than Aspen Shortsfest then I've never seen it. Year after year -- for twenty years now -- the festival serves up a heaping helping of short films as drama, comedy, animation, and documentaries that the indie world has to love.
The early show Friday night at the Wheeler Opera House in Aspen was no different that any of the short film shows I've seen in previous years. The marquee piece had to be "Red Shirley," the Velvety rocker Lou Reed's story about his 100-year-old cousin, but the program also included the hilarious "The First Anders," directed by Kristian Ussing Andersen; "For Today," a heartbreaking story out of Ethiopia by Zelalem Woldemariam; the Norwegian Emil Stang Lund's "Water Lillies," a stinging absurdist black comedy about achievement and excess body fat; the animated "Snow" by Carrie Francis Parks, a local talent from Basalt; not to mention the brilliant "Yelp" from Tiffany Shlain, her slaphappy take on technology and the modern world.
The best of the best was "West of the Moon," directed by Brent Bonacorso. I left the Wheel House the way people do when they feel they've been invited to a coming-out party for a major talent. Only later did I learn "Moon" had already won the Grand Jury Prize for Best Short Film at the Santa Barbara International Film Fest, the Best Short Film Award at the Carmel Film Festival, and the Best Short Film at the Rushes SOHO Shorts Festival. For good measure, Bonacorso's short film won the International Jury Award at Aspen Shortsfest? And did I mention that according to his website Bonacorso "just wrapped shooting [the soccer star] Christiano Ronaldo for Unilever in Madrid."
I mean, could this guy be any cooler?
"West of the Moon" had me at hello, and when it said goodbye I wanted it to keep on rolling, which is a luxury the audience doesn't have in the short film world. I'm not even going to try to describe it other than to say it mixed show-stopping storytelling with fantasy, animation, robots, and the dream of love young and old. "West of the Moon" was out of this world. I left the theater comparing Bonacorso to Tim Burton and wondering why we weren't going to see his latest 3-D movie.
The other shorts were nearly as brilliant. Laura Thielen and George Eldred, the tastemeisters behind the Shortsfest short film lollapalooza, have guts so golden Glenn Beck should be hawking them on the air. Can't wait till next year.